Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark

This lyrical account of one perfectly extraordinary woman's passage through a beautiful and brutal Scandinavia is not just a travelogue, a diary, a (misery) memoir of unrequited love, a business report, an examination of the sublime and the picturesque, a response to the French Revolution and a dissection of feministic ideals – it is all of these things. Though interconnected, the letters each have their own individual concerns, which gives the text as a whole a delightfully undulating narrative thread.

About the author

Mary Wollstonecraft is the godmother of modern-day feminism, best known for her seminal philosophical treatise The Vindication of the Rights of Woman and for being Mary Shelley's mother.

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Why We Like It

  • An eminently readable account of Scandinavian life and landscapes
  • Reveals the vulnerable, heart-broken person behind the hyper-intellectual feminist visionary
  • Wollstonecraft's emotional turmoil bubbles beneath the surface of the text

Born in 1759 in Spitalfields, London, Mary Wollstonecraft played a major role in formulating the political movement we now recognise as feminism, thanks in part to her highly influential text A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she argues, amongst other things, for the instigation of female education.

While she became an influential social and political presence in later life, the young Mary grew up in inauspicious surroundings. As one of seven children, money was rarely abundant and became increasingly scarce as her father, Edward, continued to squander their few resources on less-than-certain money-making schemes.

From a young age she demonstrated a willingness to defy social norms, by helping her sister Eliza to flee from her husband and new-born child, and also to affect social change, which she did by relocating her Unitarian girls' school to Newington Green with her best friend Fanny Blood, aged just 25.

Following an uninspiring spell as a governess, Mary set about eking out a career as a writer, spending time in France as a correspondent during the height of the French Revolution. It was here that she began her tumultuous and life-threatening love-affair with notorious lothario Gilbert Imlay. While still unmarried, they had a child called Fanny – a detail which would later attract significant public outcry.

After a couple of heart-broken suicide attempts – caused by Imlay's decision to bring an end to their relationship – Mary slowly returned to literary life, where she met and fell in love with William Godwin. With him she had her second child, Mary, who would go on to write Frankenstein. Sadly, Mary Wollstonecraft died in childbirth. She was thirty-eight.


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